#553 George Gershwin – Rhapsody In Blue & An American In Paris

Rhapsody in Blue has already popped up on the Randometer, with Stefano Bollani’s recording of the original version for jazz band; this is the more commonly performed fuller orchestral version. And it is s’wonderful. I won’t repeat what I attempted to write about it last time, but will focus briefly on the other Gershwin classic on this record: An American In Paris.

However, this record in mainly special to me (which is why I’ve kept it even though I have two other versions of Gershwin’s classic on CD) because it is the very first LP of my Grumpa’s records that I perma-borrowed. He may have even given it to me, who knows, but it has certainly been in my collection since I was around 13.

An American in Paris was written four years after Rhapsody in Blue, in 1928, and followed his own trip to Paris to study with Ravel, who famously announced “Why be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin?” Indeed, and this is first-rate Gershwin, full of frolicsome fun and orchestral thrills and spills, perfectly conveying the jauntiness of a tourist touring in a cosmopolitan city, with the parping of car horns, the stroll in the park , and the blues refrain creeping back in to suggest a nostalgia for back home.

Of course, the piece is perhaps best known now for the 1951 film by Vincente Minnelli starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, he as the archetypal American, she as the debonair Parisienne. The film was made 14 years after Gershwin’s death but I’m sure he would have approved, since it effectively became a showcase of his work for a new generation not having been brought up on his original Broadway musicals, with songs such as I Got Rhythm, S’Wonderful and Embraceable You arranged and added to the score by Johnny Green. It came full circle again, when a version of the film was turned into a musical, opening on Broadway in 2015. The wife and I saw it in London at the end of 2017, delighting once more at the genius of popular tunes that was George Gershwin.

Best Bits: Without wishing to choose the same sweeping clarinet glissando in Rhap-in-Blue, it has to be recurring jaunty walk theme of Am-in-Par
Genre: A Classical Jazz Classic
Like This, Try This: Watch the film and dream of being a painter in Paris


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